- Camps in Thailand
- Camp Organisation
Mae La Sub-district, Tha Song Yang District, Tak Province
Distance from Border
8 km in a straight line
Distance from Mae Sot
57 km, approx. 1 hour driving time
Car: Good, all-year-round access from sealed road (public transport available)
Phone: Good mobile phone coverage in most parts of the camp
Internet: Privately-run internet services available in camp
Area 1,150 rai (184 ha)
Introduction and History
Mae La is by far the largest of the nine camps, with a population of over 42,000 people. Mae La is also known as ‘Beh Klaw’ or ‘cotton fields’ in the Karen/Kayin language. The name refers to the agricultural activities around which Karen/Kayin leaders negotiated permission for refugees to cross into the area in 1984.
The camp was originally established following the fall of a Karen National Union (KNU) base near the Thai village of Mae La on the border in 1984, with a population of 1,100. After the fall of Manerplaw (KNU headquarters in Karen/Kayin State) in January 1995, a number of camps were attacked in cross-border raids and the Thai authorities began to consolidate camps to improve security. Mae La was designated as the main consolidation camp in the area.
In April 1995, Mae La increased in size from 6,969 to 13,195 due to the closure of five camps to the north – Mae Ta Waw, Mae Salit, Mae Plu So, Kler Kho and Ka Mawlay Kho and the move of Huay Heng later in October of the same year.
Over the following year, the camp doubled in size again to 26,629 as those lost in the move came back into the camp. In March 1997, some people were relocated to Mae La following the closure of Huai Bone camp and again in February 1998 when Shoklo camp was closed.
Due to its size, Mae La has a wide range of educational opportunities and is considered a centre of study for refugees, so the current population includes a few thousand students who come to study in the camp (some from other camps, but most students come from Burma/Myanmar). They are registered only as temporary inhabitants.
Since 2008 mobile phone coverage has been available to the camp, and this has also facilitated privately-run Internet services in the community.
A year later, the camp was connected to the mains electricity grid. The camp office and most health, education and social centres, as well as a number of households now have access to 24 hour-a-day electricity.
|Breakdown by Age|
|Breakdown by Gender|
|Breakdown by Ethnicity|
Resettlement (Source: IOM)
In 2005, the Royal Thai Government gave approval for resettlement opportunities to be offered to camp residents. As of December 2013, 26,864 persons had departed from Mae La. The majority had resettled in the USA.